Becoming by Michelle Obama
It’s easy to be cynical about memoirs in general and those of world leaders (and first ladies) in particular. Did they write them themselves; how much can they truly reveal, how honest can they really be? I therefore embarked on Michelle Obama’s much hyped memoir Becoming with what I deemed to be a healthy dose of skepticism.
After eight years in the White House we still knew little about Michelle Obama and reading Becoming makes it clear just how intentional that was. She was known to be a private person, a fierce protector of her family; there were rumors of her strong opinions and outspokenness. None of that was a surprise, really. Here was a strong, well-educated woman from the South Side of Chicago moving into the White House as the first African American first lady married to the first African American president. Nothing about that says quiet, shy and retiring.
Michelle Obama’s life is well known by now. How she and her brother grew up in a small upstairs apartment of a small house in Chicago with supportive, loving and, above all, hard working parents. How she arrived at Princeton where she experienced what it was like being the only black woman in the room; how she met Barack Obama at the law firm where she was working; how she soon realized the her husband’s destiny and drive were inevitable, and how he was meant for a different and inescapable kind of greatness that would soon dictate and change not only his but her life forever.
Becoming feels like a very genuine book. It’s easy to hear Michelle Obama’s voice and to sense the struggles, doubts and major leaps of faith that at times are similar to those of any couple, such as work/life balance discussions, marriage counseling, infertility issues and at times are recognizable only to a very select group of people: those who get to inhabit the White House. While the problems facing Michelle Obama seem surreal at times, the solutions and her inner debate to solve them feels very real and relatable.
Reading Becoming confirmed everything I thought I knew about Michelle Obama. She is strong, she does have strong opinions, she will fight for what she believes in and she is fiercely protective of her family, especially her daughters.
What I didn’t know and what was surprising was just how honest she was willing to be in her memoir. Also, how outgoing and social she is, how she loves hanging out with her friends and how it took some getting used to being married to a guy, whose idea of a fun Saturday night is to stay home and read a book!
Becoming is a fun, fascinating read about Michelle Obama’s journey from the South Side of Chicago to the White House - and beyond. Its full of fun facts and stories about the importance of family, the struggle to survive, the value of hard work, the beauty of sharing your life with a soul mate and the utter strangeness of being a first lady.
More than anything the aptly named Becoming shows the strength of a value driven life; of how principles and moral standards instilled in you by your parents and your experiences - good and bad - growing up and making your way in the world shape you and help you become the person you were meant to be. And finally how those same values will guide you and serve as a touchstone when things don’t go as planned. Which as it turns out happens A LOT in politics.